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University of B.C.'s use of animals for scientific research declines

The number of animals used for research fell 15.7 per cent in 2015, though there was a 3.8 per cent rise in experiments that cause distress.

Female white rats stand in a basin at an animal laboratory of a medical school on February 16, 2008 in Chongqing Municipality, China.

China Photos/Getty Images

Female white rats stand in a basin at an animal laboratory of a medical school on February 16, 2008 in Chongqing Municipality, China.

The number of animals used in scientific research at the University of British Columbia fell nearly 16 per cent last year, though there was a slight increase in experiments that cause moderate to severe distress, according to statistics disclosed by the university Wednesday.

In 2014, 182,115 animals were involved in 869 research and teaching protocols, a decline of 15.7 per cent from the 216,450 animals involved in 911 protocols in 2013, according to UBC.

About 62 per cent of animals involved in lab research were rodents, while nearly 22 per cent were fish and 13 per cent were reptiles and amphibians, the university said.

Small mammals, large mammals, birds and marine mammals made up less than one per cent each of the animals used in experiments at UBC.

More than 56 per cent of the animals were involved in experiments deemed by the Canadian Council of Animal Care, or CCAC, to cause less than minor or short-term stress, like blood sampling, tagging and tracking of wild animals.

Nearly 44 per cent of animals were involved in experiments that have been determined to cause moderate to severe distress or discomfort, representing a 3.8 per cent increase over 2013. According to UBC, the increase in these procedures is the result of more stringent reporting practices.

Twenty-seven animals were also involved in procedures deemed by the CCAC to cause severe pain near, at or above the pain tolerance threshold of a conscious animal without anesthesia.

UBC started disclosing statistics about its animal research program in 2011 following a public appeal from animal rights group Stop UBC Animal Research a year earlier.

The group was formed after a UBC student newspaper reported that the university was one of the largest biomedical campuses in Canada, using cats, pigs, rats and rabbits for research.

With files from The Canadian Press

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